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Care homes, hospitals, schools among locations to benefit from new, dedicated Contact Tracing Hub

A new Contact Tracing Hub for COVID-19 infections in complex settings and cases has been established in Cheshire and Merseyside.

Led by Public Health England and the region’s Directors of Public Health, The Hub, works with the national Test and Trace programme to manage complex outbreaks of COVID-19 using data and local intelligence. It is one of many interventions put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in local communities and prevent any future lockdowns or restrictions of movement.

The Hub’s purpose is to receive information from the national Test and Trace service and local authorities relating to positive cases of COVID-19 that are identified as a complex case or in a complex setting.

Complex settings include environments like schools, NHS settings like GP practices and hospitals, care homes and workplaces like office blocks and police and fire stations. A complex case may not necessarily be linked to a physical setting but could be a complex cohort like rough sleepers or members of faith communities, or complex individuals and households like those who are shielding, those with learning disabilities, substance misusers or those in complex socioeconomic circumstances.

Positive cases are triaged locally and the Hub works to identify contacts who will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days. This happens quickly, minimising the chance of wide transmission of the disease in local communities.

The Hub is currently staffed by a team of 25 local contact tracers, who have received training from Public Health England and are supported by Consultants and Senior Health Protection Practitioners. In addition, local authority teams are available to support with on-going operational issues and consequence management.

This work is a collaborative effort between Public Health England and Cheshire and Merseyside’s Directors of Public Health, and represents a scaling up of existing arrangements. It is hosted by Wirral Council and day-to-day operations are facilitated by the Champs Public Health Collaborative Support Team.

Julie Webster, Director of Public Health for Wirral and lead for the Contact Tracing Hub, said: “I am extremely grateful to colleagues across Cheshire and Merseyside, who have worked tirelessly to establish this Hub within an incredibly tight time-frame.

“It is internationally recognised that containing and managing a disease like COVID-19, especially within complex settings and with complex cases, is only achievable with robust contact tracing. I am confident that as we continue to scale up the Hub, we will play an important role in reducing the spread of the disease.

“This is, of course, only one method of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in local communities and I cannot stress enough how important it is for each and every one of us, no matter our age, to continue to maintain social distancing, wear a face mask or covering when appropriate and wash our hands regularly.”

Margaret Jones, Sefton Council Director of Public Health said: “Although children are returning to school and more people are going into work and socialising and travelling on public transport, COVID-19 is still very much with us and Test and Trace programme is an important way of helping prevent its spread, particularly in complex settings.

“This new, Cheshire and Merseyside Hub will be a vital tool in speeding up the identification process and reduce the likelihood of restrictions needing to be re-introduced locally.”

Find out more about Test and Trace.